Always get to the dialogue as soon as possible. I always feel the thing to go for is speed. Nothing puts the reader off more than a great slab of prose at the start. I think the success of every novel — if it’s a novel of action — depends on the high spots.
The thing to do is to say to yourself, ‘Which are my big scenes?’ and then get every drop of juice out of them. The principle I always go on in writing a novel is to think of the characters in terms of actors in a play.
I say to myself, if a big name were playing this part, and if he found that after a strong first act he had practically nothing to do in the second act, he would walk out. Now, then, can I twist the story so as to give him plenty to do all the way through?
I believe the only way a writer can keep himself up to the mark is by examining each story quite coldly before he starts writing it and asking himself if it is all right as a story. I mean, once you go saying to yourself, ‘This is a pretty weak plot as it stands, but I’m such a hell of a writer that my magic touch will make it okay,’ you’re sunk.
As I told you last week, I have been on a Wodehouse binge. Over the last three days I have read three of his books back to back while also reading a collection of his letters. I have had a thoroughly good time. The three books that I have been reading are Mike at Wrykyn,Mike and Psmith and Psmith in the City.
The first two are school stories. Wodehouse describes his time at public school as “Six years of unbroken bliss.” It is obvious from these books how much he loved being at school. These are stories about friendship, about growing up, doing silly things just for the sake of doing them and having fun.
There is plenty of cricket too. Mike, our hero is a keen cricketer and a genuinely gifted batsman, so a lot of the story and the plot in all three books revolves around cricket. This may not be to everyone’s taste but I certainly love it.
There is a cricket match at the end of all three books. Wodehouse writes each of the matches so well…you get sucked into the action and you’re reading with breathless attention, wondering what is going to happen next. It is the best kind of escapism…
The third book, Psmith in the city has our young heroes forced to go to work in a bank and hating the rigidity and the confinement of the place. This is a plot straight out of Wodehouse’s life. He too went to work at a bank after he finished school and he hated it.
He wrote books in whatever spare time he had and at the first sign of success, he left the bank. He had to struggle for another few years before he was truly successful, but he writes about it all so breezily in his letters and makes it seem like a big adventure rather than a struggle to make ends meet.
I think that is what I like most about this man. He had spirit.
Stacking the shelves is a weekly meme hosted by Tynga’s Reviews every Saturday. Stacking The Shelves is all about sharing the books you are adding to your shelves, may it be physical or virtual.
I have added several books to my collection this week. They are all e-books and they are all public domain books, so I got them from Project Gutenberg which if you ask me is one of the most brilliant ideas that anyone has ever had. They have so many old books, which earlier would have gone out of print and been lost forever or only been available in a couple of places. Now every book can pretty much live undamaged forever.
Now on to the books. As I mentioned in my previous post I have been adding to my collection of P G Wodehouse. These are the treasures that I have acquired:
They are all school stories and they are absolutely brilliant. I’m having a wonderful time reading them.
I have been on a bit of a Wodehouse binge for the last couple of days. Part of the reason for this is that I have been reading P G Wodehouse : A Life in Letters and falling ever more in love with this charming, genial, incredible genius of a man.
I always thought he was a brilliant writer, but it was when I read Performing Flea...an exchange of letters between him and Bill Townend who was a close friend of his from the time they were in school together…that I began to truly appreciate the man.
Townend was a writer too and most of the letters are about the art and craft of writing, characters, plot development, language and the creative process. But there is a lot of Wodehouse the man, there as well and as I read that book, I found that I liked and admired him probably more than any other writer and definitely more than most people I know.
So reading this book has brought on a lot of nostalgia. That combined with the fact that I have recently acquired several of Wodehouse’s earliest books…the ones written before 1923; they are all past copyright and in the public domain now…has led me on a binge. I am reading all of Wodehouse’s school stories.
I began withTales of St Austins which I hadn’t read before and then I read Mike at Wrykyn, over three sleepless hours last night and now I’m five chapters into Mike and Psmith. Both of these are books that I have read before, but that does not in way diminish my enjoyment of them now.
Mike is likeable anyway, but Psmith is a wonderful character. Everyone talks of Jeeves and Wooster, but Psmith is by far my favourite Wodehouse character. He is intelligent and quirky, witty and irreverent and quite mad, while somehow also being a good person and a loyal friend. The more I read about him, the more fascinating I find him.
I think the best thing you can say about a fictional character is that you wish that person were real and that he or she was your friend. Well, I wish Psmith was my friend…
Read something dramatically different from your previous book. That was my husband’s suggestion. Since Team of Rivals was intense, thought provoking and very emotionally engaging, he thought it might be a good idea to read something lighthearted. So I picked up two books:
You cannot get more lighthearted and funny than either of these guys. I am four chapters into P G Wodehouse : A life in letters and seventy-five pages into Still Foolin ‘Em..
The best thing about both these books is that though they are funny, they’re by no means frivolous…I’m really enjoying them. And I am so glad to be reading again…
“A certain critic — for such men, I regret to say, do exist — made the nasty remark about my last novel that it contained ‘all the old Wodehouse characters under different names.’ He has probably by now been eaten by bears, like the children who made mock of the prophet Elisha: but if he still survives he will not be able to make a similar charge against Summer Lightning. With my superior intelligence, I have out-generalled the man this time by putting in all the old Wodehouse characters under the same names. Pretty silly it will make him feel, I rather fancy.”
― P.G. Wodehouse, Summer Moonshine
“You should read Wodehouse when you’re well and when you’re poorly; when you’re travelling and when you’re not; when you’re feeling clever, and when you’re feeling utterly dim. Wodehouse always lifts your spirits, no matter how high they happen to be already.”
P G Wodehouse is the author of almost a hundred books and the creator of Jeeves, Blandings Castle, Psmith, Ukridge, Uncle Fred and Mr Mulliner. As well as his novels and short stories, he wrote lyrics for musical comedies with Guy Bolton and Jerome Kern, and at one time had five musicals running simultaneously on Broadway.
Wodehouse introduced Jeeves in 1915. About 50 years later, in a book called The World of Jeeves (1967), he explained: “I find it curious, now that I have written so much about him, to recall how softly and undramatically Jeeves entered my little world. … On that occasion, he spoke just two lines.
The first was:
‘Mrs Gregson to see you, sir.’
‘Very good, sir, which suit will you wear?’
It was only some time later … that the man’s qualities dawned upon me. I still blush to think of the off-hand way I treated him at our first encounter.”
When asked how he approaches his writing, he said, “I just sit at a typewriter and curse a bit.”